First Edition: May 7, 2014
Today's headlines include a story noting that insurers say about 80 percent of new enrollees have paid their first premiums for new insurance coverage under the health law.
Kaiser Health News: Need A Doc? These Companies Will Hook You Up In A Hurry
Kaiser Health News staff writer Daniela Hernandez, working in collaboration with Wired, reports: “Grand Rounds is one of many healthcare startups bringing on-demand, concierge-like services once reserved for the ultra-rich to the middle class – similar to what tech outfits like Google, Amazon, Uber, and Lyft have done for personal shopping and transportation. These budding companies offer basic access to medical advice, appointments and other assistance. Some operate regionally, others nationally. Their services and prices vary substantially—but all aim to fill gaps in the existing health care system, in part by using the Internet” Hernandez, 5/7). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Employers Eye Moving Sickest Workers To Insurance Exchanges
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jay Hancock, working in collaboration with The Daily Beast, reports: “Can corporations shift workers with high medical costs from the company health plan into online insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act? Some employers are considering it, say benefits consultants. ‘It's all over the marketplace,’ said Todd Yates, a managing partner at Hill, Chesson & Woody, a North Carolina benefits consulting firm. "Employers are inquiring about it and brokers and consultants are advocating for it’” (Hancock, 5/7). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Chemo Costs In U.S. Driven Higher By Shift To Hospital Outpatient Facilities
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Roni Caryn Rabin writes: “The price of cancer drugs has doubled in the past decade, with the average brand-name cancer drug in the U.S. costing $10,000 for a month’s supply, up from $5,000 in 2003, according to a new report by IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, a health information, services and technology company” (Rabin, 5/6). Check out what else is on the blog.
The New York Times: Insurers Say Most Who Signed Up Under Health Law Have Paid Up
Most of the people choosing health plans under the Affordable Care Act — about 80 percent — are paying their initial premiums as required for coverage to take effect, several large insurers said Tuesday on the eve of a House hearing about the law. But the health insurance industry said the total of eight million people who signed up included “many duplicate enrollments” for consumers who tried to enroll more than once because of problems on the website (Pear, 5/6).
The Washington Post: D.C. Council Approves Broad New Tax On Health Insurance To Cover City’s Exchange
The D.C. Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a broad tax on all health-related insurance products sold in the nation’s capital to solve a big money problem faced by its online health insurance exchange. Under the measure, which will take effect on an emergency basis but eventually face congressional review, the exchange will fund its operating costs through a 1 percent tax on more than $250 million in insurance premiums paid annually by those who live and work in the District (Davis, 5/6).
The Wall Street Journal: D.C. Council Approves Tax To Aid Health Exchange
The city council of Washington, D.C., voted Tuesday to allow a tax on all health insurers selling inside the district to fund its Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace. The plan, submitted by the city's DC Health Link insurance exchange, gives the city the power to tax all health-insurance carriers inside the district for exchange funding. The council opted for taxing all carriers, not just those selling in the exchange, to make the levy lower, according to a copy of the approved resolution (Radnofsky, 5/6).
NPR: Big Ambitions And Flawed Technology Tripped Up State Exchanges
Among the states that looked to expand health coverage to nearly all their citizens, Massachusetts was an early front-runner. The state passed its own health care law back in 2006 mandating near-universal insurance coverage. That law became a model for federal action. And after the Affordable Care Act went through in 2010, Massachusetts had a head start in bringing health coverage to the uninsured (Hensley, 5/6).
The Associated Press: NC Lawmaker Wins GOP Senate Nomination
North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis captured the Republican nomination to oppose imperiled Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan Tuesday night, overcoming anti-establishment rivals by a comfortable margin in the first of a springtime spate of primaries testing the strength of a tea party movement that first rocked the GOP four years ago. … Hagan is among the Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbents in a campaign season full of them, a first-term lawmaker in a state that is ground zero in a national debate over the health care law that she and the Democrats voted into existence four years ago. Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has run about $7 million worth of television commercials criticizing Hagan for her position on the law (5/6).
The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker: New Obamacare Attacks: A Round-Up
We are going to do a quick round-up of two recent claims about the Affordable Care Act. We can’t always get to them, and indeed the quote above was first spotted by our colleagues at PolitiFact. But it is simply too good to pass up. We also regret not finding the time to fact check the radio ad by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), which claimed that GOP hopeful Thom Tillis (R) had said that Obamacare was a “great idea” (Kessler, 5/7).
The New York Times: Chamber Of Commerce Makes Ad Buy Supporting Pro-Business Republicans
Though the ads range in topic, President Obama’s signature health care law figures significantly into several of the commercials. The ad for Mr. Heck, a doctor, warns that the Affordable Care Act has led to “higher taxes, increased premiums and fewer choices” (Parker, 5/6).
The Wall Street Journal: Humana Earnings Shrink On Higher Costs; Results Top Views
Humana Inc. said first-quarter profit shrank 22% as the Medicare-focused insurer's higher expenses offset its improved revenue. Still, revenue and earnings came in well above analysts' forecasts. Humana and its peers face shrinking government funding for Medicare Advantage plans, which are the private industry's version of the health plan for the elderly and disabled. Humana is more tethered to these plans than any other big insurers, making its ability to manage lower payments while guarding profit margins a significant issue (Rubin, 5/7).
The Associated Press: Settlement Seeks $100M Fund For Meningitis Victims
A settlement filed with a federal bankruptcy judge would create a fund of more than $100 million to compensate victims of a nationwide meningitis outbreak linked to a Massachusetts pharmacy, lawyers said Tuesday (5/6).
Los Angeles Times: Hospitals And Union Make Deal To Avoid Ballot Measure Fight
California hospitals have reached a deal with the state's largest healthcare union to avoid an expensive and potentially nasty ballot measure fight this fall that would have cast a harsh spotlight on high medical costs and executive salaries. As part of Tuesday's agreement, the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West dropped proposed ballot initiatives to limit hospital charges and cap what nonprofit hospitals pay their executives (Terhune, 5/6).
The Wall Street Journal: SEIU, California Hospitals Will Create $100 Million State Medicaid Fund
The nation's biggest health-care union and the California hospital industry said Tuesday they had reached a multiyear deal to create a $100 million fund to improve a state-run Medicaid system they say falls short on hospital reimbursements. But after months of public threats and private talks, the Service Employees International Union didn't appear to win one of its biggest demands: access to tens of thousands of hospital workers for an organizing drive (Trottman and Maher, 5/6).
The Associated Press: Federal Audit Faults NY Medicaid Claim Rate
Federal auditors say New York should repay $60.8 million in Medicaid reimbursement for unallowable costs for room and board for taking care of developmentally disabled people (5/7).
USA Today: Dental Therapists Aim To Fill In Oral Health Shortfalls
A few states are trying to alleviate their oral health care shortages by allowing the licensing of dental therapists — a fairly new class of dental care providers, essentially dentistry's version of physicians' assistants. They face strong resistance from dentists (McElhaney, 5/6).
Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.